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Viola Davis: #OscarSoWhite Not Responsible for Uptick in Black Nominees

Variety logo Variety 1/30/2017 Daniel Holloway
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After winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for supporting actress Sunday night, Viola Davis was asked whether she thought that the increase in black acting Oscar nominees this year was a direct response to last year’s #OscarSoWhite backlash.

“There’s a lot of typecasting — age, sex, color, dark-skinned, light-skinned,” said Davis, who won outstanding supporting actress for “Fences.” “Response to OscarSoWhite? No. I think that every nominee from Naomie Harris to Octavia Spencer to ‘Hidden Figures’ to ‘Fences’ to ‘Moonlight’ to Mahershala Ali are up there because they deserve to be there. They’re not there because of the color of their skin. They put in the work. So the answer to that is no.”

Davis is nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress at next month’s Academy Awards for “Fences” alongside Harris, Spencer, Nicole Kidman, and Michelle Williams.

“February 27 is gonna come, and now what?” Davis said. “Is it just going to be a trend to talk about inclusion — and I’d rather say inclusion than diversity — or is it going to be a norm that we’re all part of the narrative, that all of our stories deserve to be told, and that art indeed has to reflect life and our culture? And people are going to demand it. We’re not ‘The Brady Bunch’ anymore. We’re ‘Black-ish.’ We’re ‘Fresh Off the Boat.’ We’re ‘Jane the Virgin.’ We’re ‘Stranger Things.’ We’re a hodgepodge of races and sexes and sexualities.”

Davis, who won an Emmy in 2015 for her work on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” also talked about the continuing dearth of opportunities for people of color in leading roles.

“I saw an absence of women who look like me on TV eight years ago,” she said. “And to tell you the truth, we’re still sort of absent in leading roles, especially if you’re darker than a paper bag.”

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